Sam Huber At The Bitter End, Monday, April 16th, 2018, Reviewed
Earlier this week True Groove released a house remix of Sam Huber’s “Bright Life” and the thing to keep in mind is that Huber is first and foremost a funkmeister and you have to think that EDM is both hedonism and utilitarianism in action so it doesn’t quite lend itself to Huber’s rhythm based 70s black funk sound. But you would be wrong. If Huber’s 50 minute set at The Bitter End last night taught us anything, it is that funk is fun and Sam, as gifted a front man as you will ever see, is willing to give 100% in pursuit of a good time. Whether skanking or staggering, dancing or kneeling like Finland’s burden is on his back, Huber was as exciting and liberating a figure as you could possibly imagine. The audience howled its appreciation of the “funkiest man in Scandinavia” in his pursuit of a good time.
During an extremely pleasurable nine song set, Huber only performed three songs off his debut solo album, last year’s Confused. He didn’t do “Ny #1” the essence of a crowd pleaser and he didn’t do “Turn Around” the first single off the album, but what he did do was a superbly accented piece of cornered off soul. The sweet come on of “Measure For Measure” was followed by the harmonylicious “Plastic Love. A relatively quieter “Heaven” was followed by his best vocal performance, scatting through “People Pushing People” before tearing the roof off with a full on rub-a-dub-dub featuring Hawk Man performing a world class bit of toasting, and the entire band, so protean nothing they perform surprises you, surprising you with a dance hall bliss out on “Radio Friendly Enemy”: there have been major new releases by Beenie Man and Capleton already this year and the time is right for more skanking and Sam is the man to do it . Yet again the pleasure index flew off the charts and it was the single most pleasurable thing I’ve seen all.year. rock nyc poster child JSwiss followed with a modern rap verse to protest in disguise “Turnaround,” Guitarist Tomas Doncker stepped back and directed from behind with little fuss but every time he went for a solo he nailed it, and when the sound went from funk to a post-punk skronking sound he managed the transition with the ease you’d expect, And while I remain convinced that Huber has only one great subject in him, pleasure and how to handle the loss of it, by the end he was chanting “we need a change” with JSwiss and an awareness that pleasure is complicated.
Huber had one great thing for him, The True Groove Allstars. I’d last seen The Allstars at La Mama earlier this year, performing music from The Mercy Suite and the upcoming Black Magnolia album, a sound dubbed Black Americana, and a sound based around quietness. Last night, the Allstars were on fire. especially Kevin Jenkins. I’ve heard Kevin before, even solo, but it took a bassist herself Mary Rudzis to point out just how steadily great his performance was. Eschewing flash for the fundamentals, he was as dexterous and solid a bassist as you ever seen, not all rhythm but also rhythm, it was a virtuoso at work. I never get tired of watching the True Groove Allstars on stage, they are having so much fun and yet are so effortlessly tight and on the dime, you never catch em napping, you never catch them missing anything. The dual guitars, brothers in arms Tomas Doncker and James Dellatacoma are two sides of a coin, and everything is at complete service to Sam: their only concern making him sound as well as they can.
Still, this is Sam’s night all the way, and Sam is a great. He looks like New York punk circa 79, not the zippered set but the leather coat and tee shirt, he has a commanding presence but with young man moves and moves with fluidity, he smiles constantly and yet there is an edge of intimidation about him. Addicted to the funk Sam is all sexual aggression and art dance moves, with a new album on the horizon and a tour to complement it, he has the cockiness of a man who knows he has brought his version of funk, a Euroglimmer black sound that on a song like “Measure For Measure” brushes next to jazz before settling in everywhere he wants to be. Then he took us there.